What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“ADVERTISEMENTS, of moderate Length, are inserted the First Time, for 5s.”
Many colonial printers did not regularly publish how much they charged for newspaper subscriptions or advertising, while some included that information in the colophon at the bottom of the final page of each issue. A few transformed their colophons into extensive advertisements for all sorts of goods and services available at their printing offices.
Such was the case for Anne Catherine Green and Son, printers of the Maryland Gazette. They did not merely state that they printed their newspaper in Annapolis. Instead, they declared that “all Persons may be supplied with this GAZETTE, at 12s. 6d. a Year” or twelve shilling and six pence annually. Green and Son published advertisements “of a moderate Length” for five shillings “the First Time” and an additional shilling “for each Week’s Continuance.” Like many other printers, they charged more for “Long Ones in Proportion to their Number of Lines.” Some printers gave prices for only subscriptions or for only advertisements. The more complete accounting from Green and Son demonstrates that a single advertisement that ran for a month generated almost as much revenue as a subscription for an entire year.
In addition to printing the Maryland Gazette, Green and Son also sold “most kinds of BLANKS” or printed forms for legal and financial transactions. Throughout the colonies, printers hawked blanks. Green and Son listed “COMMON and BAIL BONDS; TESTAMENTARY LETTERS of several Sorts, with their proper BONDS annexed; BILLS of EXCHANGE; [and] SHIPPING-BILLS.” They appended “&c.” (an eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to indicate that they had on hand, “ready Printed,” an even greater variety of blanks to meet the needs of their customers. In addition, they did “All Manner of PRINTING-WORK … in the neatest and most expeditious Manner.” That included broadsides for posting around town, handbills for distributing on the streets, catalogs for auctions, and other advertising materials.
Each issue of the Maryland Gazette concluded with an extensive advertisement for goods and services available at the printing office. Green and Son significantly expanded the colophon beyond giving the name of the printer and the place of publication, reminding readers that the printing office offered far more than just copies of the newspaper.